The term and concept of Hinduism was coined only in recent times. Otherwise, there was really no such thing. The word ‘Hindu’ essentially comes from the word Sindhu. Anyone who is born in the land of Sindhu is a Hindu. It is a cultural and geographic identity. It is like saying — “I am an Indian” but it is a more ancient identity than being an Indian. ‘Indian’ is only about seventy years old, but this is an identity that we have always lived with.
Being a Hindu does not mean having a particular belief system. Basically, the whole culture was oriented towards realising one’s full potential. Whatever we did in this culture was Hindu. There is no God or ideology that we can call as the Hindu way of life. We can be a Hindu irrespective of whether we worship a man-god or a woman-god, whether we worship a cow or a tree. If we don’t worship anything we can still be a Hindu.
It is only recently and due to external influences that this geographical and cultural identity has attempted to transform itself into a religious identity called Hinduism. The attempt to organise it as a religion is still not successful because the Hindu way of life which is referred to as Sanatana Dharma or universal law is all-inclusive in nature and does not exclude anything. The Hindu way of life is not an organised belief system but a science of attaining liberation or moksha.
The conflicts in the world have always been projected as good versus bad, but really, the conflict is always one man’s belief versus another man’s belief. In the past, religion was far more important to people than it is now, but still there were no theocratic states in this culture; the ruler had his religion and the subjects had the freedom to follow theirs. There was no conflict because people did not look at religion as an organised process.
In India that is Bharat, we have always been traditionally taught to follow any path we feel will lead us to moksha. In the modern era this has been forgotten, but there are many spiritual Gurus who are slowly and steadily taking us back to our roots — the search for our own ‘self.’ That is the Sanatana way. It is a process of self-enquiry — Who am I? From where have I come? Where am I going? What is the connection between me and my Guru? What is the purpose of life? And so on…..the questions are unending and the true seeker looks for answers.
When the desire to ‘know’ becomes all powerful a realised Guru enters our lives and shows us the path. That is the ‘Hindu’ way of life. To find the ‘truth’ by any means possible. In reality, all roads lead to the same destination. Unfortunately, religious leaders want control and power over their subjects and use guilt and fear to keep them subjugated.
Sanatana Dharma teaches us to be free — free to follow our own path and find the God within. True peace only comes when we get out of duality and become one with the God within, merge with universal consciousness and reach our ultimate goal.